BWW Reviews: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Brings Tradition to Merced

September 1
5:20 PM 2014
BWW Reviews: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Brings Tradition to Merced

Great theatre is tradition in Merced, where Playhouse Merced just opened its 2014-2015 season with "Fiddler on the Roof," now in its 50th Anniversary. The classical musical has become a tradition of its own in theatres across the world.

RC Essig as Tevye leads a cast of more than 30 on the small Merced stage, espousing tradition and its merits among the peaceful people of Anatevka. (Of course, there was that time that one man sold another a horse, but delivered a mule. Hopefully it won't kick any heads in the mud.) Tevye and the others hold tightly to tradition while the world changes and their children make traditions of their own.

Essig brings a refreshing, relaxed and natural sensibility to Tevye, making his outburst of wishes for riches all the more enjoyable. As Golde, Tevye's strong-willed and quick-witted wife, Theresa Hong has the strongest accent of the cast. Others chime in with Jewish and Russian accents, and director Robert Hype's decision to pronounce some names differently adds a sense of authenticity. Hype's direction at times adds priceless new takes on key sequences such as Tevye's dream, but still grounding the production in traditional staging.

Vocally, the younger cast members show potential for much more than what the script allows. Tevye's eldest daughters, played by Melissa Beckwith, Stephanie Rogers and Katie Bordona, each possess beautiful voices, while the men they pair off with (Matt Capron, James McInture and Jeshamon Volkerts) get the stage time in songs like "Miracle of Miracles," "Now I Have Everything" and "To Life."

When Volkerts interrupts the engagement celebrations to sing his own congratulations, he makes an instant impression. Incredible Russian dancing follows and solidifies Volkerts as one of the strongest performers of the production. On opening night, he brought energy where needed. By closing, that energy should rub off on the timing and chemistry of the remaining talented cast.

Dennis Brown conducts the live orchestra, while Corey Strauss provides the perfect set design and Hypes sets the mood with beautiful lighting upon a cloudy sky background.


Through Sep 14
Playhouse Merced

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Harmony Wheeler A theater lover since childhood, Harmony Wheeler has done Marketing and Public Relations work for Sierra Repertory Theatre, Hillhouse Opera Company and other companies. She graduated with high honors from Biola University with her degree in Journalism and an emphasis in Public Relations. In addition to working for the Gallo Center for the Arts, MJM Entertainment Group, Biola University Marketing and Communications, 6th Street PR, and Zimbabwe Gecko Society, Wheeler has written for The Modesto Bee, The Chimes, Static MultiMedia,, TUFW Alumnus Magazine, Christian Book Previews, The Christian Communicator, and Church Libraries Magazine. Her photos appear in The Dominican Dream, a book available for purchase through Biola University's Journalism Department. Her photography and video work can be found at To learn more about Harmony Wheeler, or to contact her for work possibilities, visit



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